'A terrible way to make tax policy': House votes to extend dozens of tax breaks
U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner answers questions at the U.S. Capitol December 2, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Win Mcnamee)

The US House of Representatives easily approved a sweeping package of tax breaks Wednesday that will allow individuals and corporations to save billions of dollars on their 2014 taxes.

Lawmakers passed some 55 so-called tax extenders, deductions that expired at the end of 2013 but will be retroactively restored with the current legislation, by a vote of 378 to 46, setting up a Senate vote for final congressional approval in the waning days of the year.

Members hastily crafted the extenders package after a much broader bipartisan tax reform measure collapsed spectacularly last week when the White House threatened to veto it because it left out critical provisions for working families.

That left little time to draft an alternate before Congress adjourns for the year late next week.

House Speaker John Boehner expressed disappointment at last week's failure, but said he was "hopeful today's bill will help lay the groundwork for the House and Senate to continue their work to fix our broken tax code through tax reform."

Tax extenders have become a traditional quirk of the cumbersome US tax system, and some of the deductions in Wednesday's package have been extended annually since the 1980s.

This year's package will cost US taxpayers an estimated $44.7 billion over 10 years, and include perks for horse racing, the wind energy industry, Hollywood moviemakers and NASCAR auto racing.

But it also offers much-needed tax credits for research and development, lowers costs for teachers who pay for supplies out of their own pocket, and helps struggling home owners who entered programs to reduce their mortgages.

Lawmakers expressed exasperation about the extender process, saying it reduces stability for American businesses.

"This on-again, off-again style of legislating on a temporary basis is a terrible way to make tax policy," the retiring chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, told the House.

"We're the only nation in the world that lets large pieces of its tax code expire."

Democrat Sander Levin warned that "not to act would disrupt the coming tax filing season for millions of workers and businesses."